Christianity was supposed to be about becoming like Jesus. We went in the wrong direction.
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Sobriety is not Enough


At a recent Al-anon meeting the subject of sobriety was raised and discussion ensued regarding the fact the even when someone stopped drinking, it did not necessarily make things better. In fact, sometimes the clarity of sobriety exposes or amplifies other difficulties.

It reminded me of a talk I once had with a gal that was having relationship problems. I asked her if she had been sexually abused as a child. She became suddenly very quiet and then asked how I could tell, as if she was afraid that others might be able to tell as well.

I said that abuse was tricky because not only do negative things happen but the development of positive ones may also be neglected. Many people do not appreciate the double sided harm this can cause. I could see an application to sobriety in that stopping a downward spiral, while good, is not a complete answer as it can leave people stranded somewhere on that spiral.

It can be necessary to work at repair and development of a life that has been neglected. Just as a vacant house will deteriorate, a life spent in pursuit of indulgences also falls into disrepair. For many people healthy life skills were never fully developed and something like sobriety is not so much a recovery of what has been lost, but the discovery of what was never built.

This is where the twelve step programs have an advantage. They provide a context for rebuilding or even for the first time to develop those missing life skills. We all start life as selfish children. Some make little progress in growing out of this state. Those who see little reason not to pursue whatever selfish desires they have can make the lives of those around them very unhappy. They may even come to see the negative effects in themselves of unmoderated indulgence.

Twelve step programs do a lot to introduce people to skills like seeing oneself honestly, considering how others feel, using the motivational power of shame to try to face difficulties like mending relationships, and use the acknowledgment of God to help accept the humility that is necessary for a healthy life.

One does not need alcoholism or child abuse to leave one with a sort of arrested development. Christian parents themselves may have been raised with an incomplete understanding of how to live the Christian life (other than “try to be good”). As a result, they may be ignorant of how to teach their children to follow Christ. They may rely on Sunday School classes and sermon lectures to accomplish this instruction. Paul admonishes the Galatians calling them “foolish” for abandoning his teaching and trying to follow the law. He tells them that they are incomplete by saying that he hopes Christ will be “formed” in them at a future time (Gal 4:19).

Christianity was never intended to be a partial or incomplete life. There is an expectation that in each of us Christ will be formed and be observable (Eph 4:13). A life calamity like alcoholism can propel one to seek solutions and personal growth. It might seem a shame that Christians who have access to all that God would desire for them, seldom take advantage of what is available.

Often it takes some calamity or crisis to force a Christian out of his comfort zone to seek out what God offers freely. Just as sobriety by itself is incomplete, The Christian convinced that there is nothing further required of him may also still have skills to develop, lessons to learn, and progress to make.


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